Monday, November 11, 2019

THIS NOTHING

        how did this haste begin this little time 
        at any time this reading by lightning 
        scarcely a word this nothing this heaven
             —W.S. Merwin, "Just This"


Even when living
in the moment
I am still afraid

the moment
is me. I do not want
to see it leave

though I never
watched it
come this way.

Tomorrow I will
just as likely say
I believe in nothing

outside today—
not even
the last time

I came to this place
and professed the same
belief. I know

even the stars
we use to steer
have all burnt out

long ago but still
I feel relief in the rush
to look up

the answer
to a question like—
who invented zero.



Saturday, November 9, 2019

LYING ABOUT PRAYING


It's true I still think about you
at least once a day

but I've never thought
to pray.

Except for that one time
you asked me to

with the look in your
eyes—far away

as unnamed planets
all clouded over

with roiling atmospheres
yet stubbornly

refusing to rain—as I lied
and shouted

and swore
I could change.

Friday, November 8, 2019

THE PRIME MALINGERER


He's not what you'd call
flighty—it just so happens

staring distracted
out the window comprises

his very small area
of expertise.

What he sees
there abstracted—the mangled

trees, crooked dismal
stacks of brick—you couldn't call it

disaffection, exactly;
it's more the artistic process

by which the labyrinthine city
becomes the living manifestation of

his cracked and hypnagogic logic.
As a matter of fact, do-right

pedestrians like us, so unimaginative-
ly late to the party

would be just as comfortable calling
this waking world surreal 

if everything we saw didn't appear
so likely.


Thursday, November 7, 2019

THE COLOR OF EVERYTHING


Every day
before the stories
of sirens

before the fictions
of backfiring eighteen
wheelers yellow diesel
busses cranes jackhammers

new light—

silent
faceless
gray as water

then the color
of pale roses

then of jarred honey

spreading from the great lake's edges
without any interest
in boundary
or intent—

must awaken
the sleeping
authors from their measureless

reality of dreams


Wednesday, November 6, 2019

ITSELF

Like thin pencil
flourishes of high birds
churning wider

and wider
circles in the gray
emptiness of morning sky

every day
every hour passes
gradually turning

into something
so slow
and simple

and inevitable it
surprises no one—
even though

they squint and stare
unprepared
at the squiggles

of letters which are
all familiar
but which

together form
a signature
a word that no one

on earth dead
or living has
ever read before.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

MEMORY AS THE INVERSE OF IMAGINATION

Even though
it also doesn't

youth
most certainly
disappears suddenly

a little like
a huge July sky
plunges over water

a little like the voice
of wind bellows apples
from November trees

a little like good
will and cheerful
music goes in January

a little
like an April snow

but mostly
like nothing
else we know.

Monday, November 4, 2019

ABANDON


Even as they're crying
the poor November
birds form flocks

even the little ones
who were born here
in the rich light of late summer

which is still burnt
into the shrunken Oak leaves
and the rock-

hard crab apple berries
resist but
are helpless

to keep from remembering
for the first time
how to fly

not in the direction
of safety but all the way
back home.


Sunday, November 3, 2019

DAYLIGHT SAVINGS ENDS

How is it the few drab
gray brown birds

still left here in the naked
gray brown limbs

are the only ones now
not singing

songs about things
that already happened?

Saturday, November 2, 2019

ERRORS IN THE TRANSLATION

Many people have stood here
before us and fallen—names still
sewn in the same gray ground now

that was once the province
of spring and its effervescent
kingdom of blossoms.

When we look at a thing, we think
we are seeing it always; we forget
the word for rain, deny the black eyes,

the savage humiliation and abuse
of the still-living Jesus, behold nothing
in those still-blank pages

to which the slightest wind
has blown our notebooks open—
whose song have we been singing

along with all this time
without even realizing?
what malevolence was it

that tricked us into swallowing
those cyanide seeds
of purpose and belief?

How did we ever
come to imagine these
moments belonged to us?

Friday, November 1, 2019

ALL HALLOWS

Nonsense only yesterday—
sweet sepia breezes,
fat bees grazing
on tufts of wild aster

this morning are
monuments—directionless
headstones, even
road signs frozen over.

No names left now
but our true ones.
Suddenly, we have come
all at once—

starved saints among us
to their ledges; the rest
of us, tomb-less ghost soldiers
building makeshift bridges—

to rush the perilous
mountain peak of
all prior knowledge
and experience.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

EARNED LUCK

The scientists are afraid
to speak in absolutes. They say

the configuration of matter
is one half

of a conversation
we were never supposed
to overhear

over here
between the ghost
and the machine

between the haunted
and the haunting

between who's left
and who is leaving—the details

are fuzzy and all the riper
and juicier for it.
Relationship

has always been a gamble
and a gambler is always
a little unstable

like those invisible bits
arrayed like chips

on the blackjack table which
we think we can read.

We think we can earn luck.
We think—we won
this kitty once

and we believe absolutely
we can win it again.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

SUPERVENIENCE

They say the past
is all in the past, but see
how densely

the present is stacked
on contingency—
what could it mean

to invoke fate
in this moment,
to witness certitude

or magic in the starlight
without knowing from experience
the chaos of explosion;

to hear truth
in the babbling
waters of a rock-strewn river

and forget to account
for glaciers'
dark impassivity?

The dizziest thought
could not fail to launch straight
from the steady scaffold

of anatomy: the imprints
of every hand I used to hold,
held lightly in my open hand.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

ROOM TO MANEUVER

How on earth in such
limited space
are we supposed to both
be ourselves
and know ourselves

for eons the pious
and faceted moon has shown us
only one face

a knifeblade refuses
to cut another knifeblade

even the arms
of operative scissors
cleave close together

but are sworn never to
exchange information
let alone embrace

Monday, October 28, 2019

REAL GRACE

Hang it, I will bless all this
food myself
by ingesting it—

let greases
smear a little, like
oil for anointing this pitiful

hunger for significance,
let juices dribble
and quench

the absurd thirst
for ritual—no silver, elbows
sprawled akimbo on the table

like galactic arms spiraling
with black
holes at their awful, visceral centers.

May I too starve
so majestically, become a body so
ruthlessly ecumenical.

Nature dabs
with no napkins; it abhors
only ceremony—

and our best sense
of eternity, which glows from those
faintly haloed edges

emerges
from the very places
where it vanishes.

Friday, October 25, 2019

VOCATIONAL

You can be certain
of seven times seven
or memorize the square root of four

but you can never know
whether even one line
of yours will survive

its first night in the wild
let alone more.
This is just how it goes.

The serpent called The Long Run
will glide out between
your desktop and the sun

every morning;
you'll have to write in the shadow
of its fame, never asking why,

and die content
to be consumed in the
flame of not knowing

what it is you were setting
down all that time—never mind
how come or what for.



Thursday, October 24, 2019

I HOLD OUT

After thirty-something years
of abysmal nights' sleep, I
strongly suspect

the days are not passing—
which neatly accounts for
the observable fact

that I haven't been aging—
the way a final chord of "A Day
In The Life" decays,

the way moonlight moves
in gradual spirals
around the closed fist I hold out

through the window's bars,
the way you always
tend to look different

from the very last
person I kissed—these things
are very clever user illusions,

when really it's the question
I've been asking
over and over again

which keeps growing older—
and slower, and more worn
with deep wrinkles of astonishment,

and of course sleepier
and ever-sleepier—waiting
for its answer.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

AT YOUR SERVICE

Dog, why is it you pretend
to like me at all? Surely you could
get along just fine without my
tugging on the line, and from
the way that you seem to keep
ruthlessly seeking it, the quality
and quantity of comfort I provide
must be less than satisfactory.

Admittedly, I do try my best
to make up for it daily
by serving up breakfast
and dinner on a veritable platter,
but this makes me nothing but
a glorified restaurateur and his
lone awkward waiter both rolled
into one. This cozy little corner

of the world I've fixed up for you
might be a lovely (and somewhat
exclusive) place to dine, but
you're no sucker; you must be aware
that nothing in this criminally short
life comes for free, and you're
secretly paying me
so much for this privilege.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

MIDWESTERN

It's pure Associative Property,
profundity by proxy—
the way I
can bite my bottom
lip and stand
tall in the autumn's raw
Midwestern wind and feel
so small, yet
so heavy for my size,
so coherent-
ly divided by
the fractal shadowy underside
of that which would so willingly die
in order to outlive me.
A bit Blander
maybe, than Christians'
gilded crosses, but it's
no wonder
around here, there are so many
tulip poplar trees.

Monday, October 21, 2019

LA CROIX

I've think I've finally
got it: all these fancy
flavored seltzer waters 
taste less like a dream 
than a dream the next 
morning—one which we 
barely remember having 
but feel unusually desperate 
to describe later. 
All we remember is that 
we were seven 
and washing down pizza 
and sheet cake with 
Orange Slice, 7UP, 
50/50, or Upper 10, 
something like that—
at a pizza party 
in the loud neon arcade 
of throbbing black-
lit bowling alley.
Everyone there 
was equally poor
at bowling; everyone's favorite 
band was Salt-N-Pepa, 
so no one argued;
and the grown-ups, too
were like friendly ghosts or 
sentinels in the corner,
the way they were hanging 
back and chatting and really
getting into their cigarettes.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

AUTUMN IN THE CITY

Autumn in the city
is handed off to you faster
than a crumpled paper bag—
no chrysanthemum

without its price-
tag dangling,
no slow rustication of perpetual
rows of grain, of tangled

patches of squash,
no valley slowdance
to Vivaldi of
barn shadows at sunset;

instead, you get
one discreet couplet
of an end-
stopped poem by Sandburg,

one pumpkin-
spiced cup
with your cursive first
name on it from the Starbucks,

one chance to gamble
at the bustling
Sunday afternoon outdoor
commodities exchange floor

in the tiny square
of public park
that borders the cold blade
of elevated train.

You grab it,
hold tight,
and imbibe—slam its heady
brew of oranges,

effervescent
reds and pale pinks, quickly
before passing it
to your immediate right

and stumbling back
bleary toward
another black
and white work week.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

INTERMISSION

It was a pretty
tough task. But
I finally managed

to close the lid
on that particular
box of memories,

turn the ornate
key that locks it,
and place it on a high

shelf out of sight—
with some other stuff
that's all used up

but still feels a little
too precious to ditch.
It's a very mixed feeling—

like the silence
after the end
of the First Act, or like

lingering at the table
after the most
incredible lunch

and daydreaming
about when and what
you'll eat next.

Friday, October 18, 2019

DOUBLE HELIX

This is how
every animate body
we know
about gets made—

a long time ago,
hope
and its opposite met
in a headlock

and began to spiral
around; and out
of the centripetal pressure:
the whole of creation, slowly

but perpetually—
which is still to this day
the way the living
talk to the dead.


Thursday, October 17, 2019

SHABBAT

Christ's sake—
from one measly
sundown
to the next,
why not
just relax?
Take a bath, read
a good book,
or both. Heck,
nothing beats
a little candlelit
Yoga by the river
Styx, and you'll
never reach Valhalla
without taking
a quick dip
in the Lethe
first. So forget
about running
around 24/7;
turns out those
ancient Mayan
mathematicians'
calculations were
off a bit—from
a modern Astro-
physics perspective,
it's just as effective
to sweat every
threat to your
chosen ideological
provenance
twenty-four-six.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

ACCEPTANCE LETTER

Even if all you recorded
was the getting
out of bed,
let us say thirteen
thousand one hundred
and forty or so
times by now—all
in a row, without ever
questioning it—
you'd already be sitting
on an epic more impressive
than Homer's in scope,
more inventively
quixotic than Cervantes',
and several hundred
times longer than the
number of days even
Jesus of Nazareth could afford.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

PROOF

Just so you know
there really is a book in which 
everything is written 

but the catch is 
you're not allowed to read it 
until after

for now I'm afraid 
only 

the muteness 
of touch 

the silence

of the voices calling 
and calling in the dreaming 
interior of the mind 

and of the doubt
that rises 
obediently to follow 

the peace 

the kind best exemplified
by still
water in light 

the unfalsifiable claims
to beauty made repeatedly 

by each burning daybreak 
and every irreversible 
immolated night—

for now 
only this much 

is safe
enough to be 
underlined and annotated

as true beyond reason
beyond purpose 
beyond question.

Monday, October 14, 2019

ANACHRONISM

O, conspicuous
fleshy pink
hibiscus

still waving to me
on increasingly crisp,
persuasive breezes

and foregrounding
now, from the threadbare bushes
nearest to the avenue,

the neighborhood's
canniness of
Halloween decor—

how I wish
you could tell me
what it is I don't notice

about the moments
in which I am
truly contented

until the colors
have shifted
and the whole planet

tilts—and they're
so out of place, it looks
ridiculous.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

BESPOKE IDEA

Believe me, I'd love for the words
which we've already got
to work. But it's no surprise
they don't; you know that, and I
know it too—there will
always be this flimsy sort of
something between us, some gauzy train
of see-through stuff, some tailor-
made fabric smartly furled,
and yet routinely stretched to a
shape we can't name
and a color we've never been able to
label. We can't explain
the ritual; we've glimpsed it
in dreams, but it blazes
up way too quickly. So now,
miles and miles from that hotbed
of emergency—and safely wide awake
on a cold dazzling Sunday—
the best I can do with these
prefabricated phrases
is just to say that it's
life-size, enact a swooping dance
of pure gesture with my
hands, and leave it at that.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

REHABILITATION

It's hard at first
but once you're bent
you tend
to bend there again.

After a time
you might
even start to arc—less like
a yogi

than a wizened
ray of light
on its way through a filmy
glass of water:

still play the lottery
just skip
the ticket; more than once
let your kid come

with you to the
convenience store
dressed in her
Halloween costume.

Friday, October 11, 2019

OBLIVION

If you can when
you're old,
think of this:

loss itself
is a kind of flaw-
less memory;

a cognizance
which, at last
is yours alone

a blissful sort
of looseness
you can hold—

the only gone
you ever get
to own.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

ASKING A LOT

There is a reason
we cannot think back 
before we could talk

we didn't know what to call 
anything we saw

this morning 
the light by which I recall 
you sitting across the breakfast table smiling 
lying on a couch petting the dog 

is simply older than can be known

before it I am still as an infant 
to the whole of the universe 
in which there is no shadow or sundial 
no aurora or gloaming 
no picture or sound or concurrence

I do not dare ask 
such fierce radiance 

should the air I inhale now 
somehow have
anticipated me

then how could any exhalation be 
expected to remember

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

NOUMENON

At the twenty-
four hour grocery
store: putting
whole things
in a squeaky-
wheeled cart—
one at a time, night
after static and
cleft, discrete night—
has, by this point
really started
to inspire me.
A whole apple,
the ideal
box of Cap'n
Crunch cereal,
one very conclusive
container
of peanut butter—
I have come
to appreciate this
clean moment-
ary world. I like
being invited.
And I've even begun
to warm up to
the thought
that I'm being
proffered
realities which are
so gratuitous-
ly themselves, so
redundantly in-
dependent and
entire—that no
prior concept
of the flawed
and incoherent
shopper is required.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

OCTOBER

Flapaway
again bluebirdies
and leave
the sweetgums stark

naked in your
tumultuous
wake;

leafless—
unsuited—yet
limbs posed
so illuminatingly

penitent
when snow's
white coma comes.

Monday, October 7, 2019

MANY WORLDS INTERPRETATION

Two and a half pounds' worth of chuck roast,
salted and slid into a low oven for
over seven hours. A combination-probe-
and-investment. A bold investigation
into tomorrow.

Important work otherwise
disconcertingly minimal. Out of your hands
though, is the way you'd prefer it. On trial,
you'd have been willing to settle
for Leopold Bloom's verdict: more sinned-
against than sinning.

Cutting your hair and shaving
felt like paying back a loan. Taking another
walk around town, to help shake off
the anomalous feeling; your favorite
way of seeing
football. On other people's televisions.

The clouds gradually overtaking the sky
while you were dozing after lunch
in the muted living room, trying not to
think, trying not to move. Just in case
none of this really belongs to you.

Just in case that was someone else's
day-to-day life-
situation bleeding through.
Just in case that was
your Monday morning, plainly feeding
back into this derelict Sunday afternoon.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

POSTMODERN FRAGMENT

Hunting for
positively any redemptive
epigraph I could uncover

and still not finding one
after half an hour—I start
to fear it's useless,

that I'm all on my
own on this one—
the debauched page

billowing, pulsing
with menace like a soiled
padded room—unless

those two crows—perched
on a cornice, and cawing
over the grayblue confusion

of the street after sunrise
with a glee that's
unusually magisterial—

were to suddenly
achieve perfect enlightenment,
swoop down

from their neo-Gothic
roof crown, and rescue this
tortured sentence.

Saturday, October 5, 2019

OUTGROWN

A long time ago, your soul
was a new penny loafer. You were
so afraid to ruin it
that you never even wore
it outside of the house.
After a while, you found it transformed

into the perfect running shoe; so snug,
light, and quick in those days—your feet
were clouds of fire, which never
touched ground. Right about now, though
your soul is some old and worn-out but
miraculously decent-fitting boot

scrounged by a homeless person
before gratefully leaning back on the
street corner trash can for a nap.
But don't sleep—eventually it's going
to morph one more time, to the polished
black wing-tip of that

beat cop drawing nearer—
chip on his shoulder, baton and
mustache twirling—who claims he never
believed in souls, and who won't
abide any street-preaching
derelicts or loafers.

Friday, October 4, 2019

DAILY POEM


When you need a few
minutes you
plainly do

not have,
this is the poem
I want you to find waiting—

like the robin's egg
blue dress hanging
clean in the closet, or

the Kit Kat bar
in the grocery
store checkout line—

these are the words I'd hope
you would memorize
even though you weren't required to

and the light you might use
to someday recognize
my face by.

It's terse
and compact enough
so as not to be

a burden; it works
like a constellation: just enough
data points to function.

It has fine rain
at a graveside funeral, cherry pie
on the windowsill,

Christ's blood as perfect
relationship metaphor—
and exactly one cedar waxwing.

Really, this poem
has nothing
to do with anything;

actually, this poem has
something to do
with everything.

Its take home message
is just that,
if you're still reading it,

you haven't completely
wasted your life yet.
That last poem which you read

on the subject
must have been mistaken:
there is still a little time.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

SEASONAL AFFECTIVE DISORDER VS THURSDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL

The domed ceiling of evening
closes down pretty fast now—at least
the rain can no longer pester us;
the wind, not so tough a
bully as we thought.

It feels late. We must have already
been affected. Left alone. Truly. But
we've been expecting this—
we've got cans of split
pea soup on hand, men with helmets

on the HD television. Soon (we reason)
a commensurate pea-green glumness
will come to both cradle
and cover us like coffin satin. Not bad.
This season was long overdue.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

...AFTER YOU

Since you're the one
asking, I admit—
I'm a flat 

earther—
maybe half
of the time, sure.

Whenever 
it gets dark, say. 
Those nights 

after you drop me 
off. When, in my
mind, the first

lonely impulse 
is to take off
my clothes

and put on black
tennis shoes—
I own several 

pairs of these 
just in case—
it might feel 

so amazing—
it might just be 
crazy enough—

to walk 
and to only 
keep walking...

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

COGITO

O to just have faith
enough to wake
and get dressed

without
exhilaration but
nothing to resist

none of this
syntactic spun-
sugar

how many lines
have burned
in my earnestness

skill and hurry
having murdered
purpose

between birth
and death how many
unarticulated poems'

flattened tongues
mouths closed
around headstones

useless and end-
stopped
order beauty simplicity

no organization
other than
by date

no justification other
than appearing
to exist

Monday, September 30, 2019

KBO

          [Winston] Churchill perpetually demonstrated 
          enthusiasm, determination, and optimism—
          if not at all times in private, then at least 
          always in public.
               —International Churchill Society


Whatever else—always charismatic,
dawn sun hitting
the red wet
brick beautifully

on row
after determined column
of shabby-but-
decent apartment buildings—

That I should be
awake to see this!—so often
I admit I don't
often notice.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

NO SECOND THOUGHT

Look at it—does
this nearly translucent
luminescent seashell glow

from the secretive
center of it
out to the edges

or is it
the other way around?
Is that cracked

but serviceable
bowl on your counter
for putting junk in

or pulling it out?
Where the movement
ends and the

willingness begins
is no stance
you can take, not a concept

you're taught;
it's just something
you get.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

THEN

In misery, them
leaving you.
Them leaving

you in misery. Then
time lapse: suns
setting, moons

rising, that kind
of thing. Seasons.
Blackened bananas

and avocados rotting.
Maggots writhing
in the kitchen. Then flies.

Then nothing
but starlight. Not bad,
you manage

eventually, you
see it: everything
that leaves—returning

just never to stay.
The worst of it
realistically, then

is the days.
Their empty
interminable passing—

only to come
back the same
way again: terrible

but so familiar.
Like a bad dream
in which you

find yourself becoming
aware of having
had it already.

Friday, September 27, 2019

WE DON'T KNOW WHAT WE WANT


Listen how
even the sincerest damn

birds can't stop clamoring
at once

for more and more
worms and yet

sunnier
and sunnier weather.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

NOVELTIES

O that tender voice, the prim
lips and smooth cheeks, the warmth
and softness of fingers touching
other compliant fingers—how luxurious,

how beautiful it is
to desperately need
those things which we
cannot afford to need.

Sunrises, sunsets, swaying
gardens of late roses and
lollipop dahlias—all those classes
of prize are different;

not prerequisites, exactly
but novelties, gewgaws—free upgrades
to your basic Food-Water-Shelter-And-
Warm-Someone-Else Package.

Though of course, you
still wind up paying
for every single one of those
too—the presumption being

that you'll find yourself desperate-
ly happy to do so
once you've seen and
handled a few.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

UTILITARIAN

While I'm here,
when I speak, I must speak
for everything:
the blood and the body, the water and dirt—
which, for their parts
all take their
silent turns wearing me;
not with precision
as earrings of laser-
cut diamond, but with a certain nonchalant
yet elegant equanimity;
a maternity dress—just one
of the many hung
in a redolent closet, perhaps
billowing slightly in the evening air.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

AUTUMN CONSPIRACY

It's a traumatic thing to witness
the lush and lively thickness of summer
inexorably getting thrashed
and winnowed. We'd have to be
forced, not coaxed, to reckon with
the evidence; and in truth, it goes so
much smoother when we don't notice.
It isn't just that the light bends to
obscure it; the whole planet tilts, and we
tilt along with it. Saturdays, we're very
busy bagging leaves, digging out
the slow cooker; Sundays, folding
clothes, cleaning windows, putting
elaborate lattices on crusts of dough as if
by the charmed wink of a candle, which
we know—but again refuse
to acknowledge—if used to its fullest
is doomed to dwindle. We do not think
twice. We are complicit. We light
it, and we burn it—then, we force
ourselves to squint a little in order to
perceive: there's still just as much
as ever that needs doing before the chili
depressurizes and the big
game kicks off. Even though of
course there's really ever so much less.

Monday, September 23, 2019

WHAT'S ONE MORE

Outside my window, a lone
crow's desiccated
rasp of a caw,
first of autumn—like

bugle Taps for the bygone
season; like a callus
that's thickening. Well, what's one
more, I guess

in the grand scheme
of this jointly tender
and excoriating world—or do I
mean, one less?

Sunday, September 22, 2019

EARLY MORNING PRAYER

          One day, we will put it all behind. We'll 
          say, that was just another day on Earth.
                    —Brian Eno
 

Dear God—please, fuck this
tyrannical math of the
thirteenth Pope Gregory.
Here I am, deigning again
to wake in good faith;
and again, I see a traitorous
digital calendar display
has slithered and shape-
shifted and clawed its way
forward another day
to the dearth of my consent,
belief, and understanding.
This is the last straw—so
help me, I will not accept
one more of these abstract
numerical premises on
behalf of your allegedly
esteemed representative.
With You as my witness, I
hereby no longer agree
to shave the graying beard
of my finite existence
off like this: for all intents
and purposes blind, with
the needle-sharp point of
an Italian stiletto, and one
uncountable hair at a time.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

DECOMPOSITION

How are we expected
to square the fact
that a good romantic novel
makes a piss poor history book
written in reverse?
Any way you choose
to look at it, fractal and confused
is the spot where the juiciest
plots merely start,
while their rectangular ends
are so neat and Newtonian
that it's more than a little perverse.
In the threads I've somehow
managed to pick up
and follow, the characters
bend and the situations alter,
but divergence is the longer-
term rule of thumb.
In as many of the world's
pages as I've fumbled
through so far, loose ends
never wind any tighter, monuments
and gravestones only
crumble in one direction,
and it's not like anyone
down there ever ends up
more in love
than they were.

Friday, September 20, 2019

END OF THE SIDEWALK

          Past the pits where the asphalt
               flowers grow
          We shall walk with a walk that is
               measured and slow
          And watch where the chalk-white
               arrows go
          To the place where the sidewalk
               ends.
                    —Shel Silverstein


I don't know,
Silverstein—mostly it seems,
hours after I've dreamed them,
my desires, hopes, and
fears are still sleeping
measured and slowly in tight
neighborhood flowerbeds, while I
blow right by them
distracted and daily
on these neverending conveyor
belts of milk gray concrete.
My mind might be
an intergalactic band
of time-traveling space aliens;
my body, perhaps
a harmonized tangle
of vibrating proto-conscious superclusters—
but in any case, everyone in here's just
fissuring on
in his limitless way
to someplace definitive,
allowable,
uninteresting.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

THE INCIDENT OVER BRUNCH

Those first hateful days
that follow are more obliterated
than they are recognizable—let alone
believed-in—and so
can hardly be
counted as such. Then

for a month—
and the bleary compendium
of months after that one—it's just
too hard
to talk about much. But
curiously

once years pass, it becomes
so difficult
to rekindle any sentiment
or recall really any
details at all—it feels trivial, if not positive-
ly dull to discuss.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

SUSPICIOUS

O September—the boughs
are getting heavy now,
and the stalks are growing
brittle. There is a meanness in
the flowers' faces. The yellows
are bronzing more than a little,
and white pillows of clouds
are flattening out. Though
all around the tall dry grasses
lie softened nectarines, plums
glossy with rain, and faintly
rotting melons; the bees
have grown listless, the song-
birds strangely terse, while
invisible cicadas whisper
more and more anxiously—
this secret of yours can't be
kept for much longer.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

HOW LONG CAN THIS GO ON

Like a gladiator, the late
September sun returns
a little more battered each morning,
bestowing

a little less warmth
and a little more color.
But which spectator among us pauses
to consider—each time

our own voice rises
in anger, lowers again
in despair—how many Olympians
are summoned and spent,

how many golden days
ransacked, rarest hours
blitzed from the air—how much summer
do we really think we have left?

Monday, September 16, 2019

COBWEBS

In the mornings, when it's still kind
of dark out, I'll get up, and I'll go
for walks around the neighborhood.
It's early, but I'm eager
to take in the empty park, the motion-
less street, and the dark trees, still vague
and damp with droning insects.
I'm always hoping the weight, the dead
calm of these sorts of things
will displace all the thoughts,
the duties, the debts, and the memories
that invariably creep in
shortly after each new day begins.

Often though, while I'm moving,
a sudden invisible something
will brush my face or forehead. Unlike me,
of course, the spiders
have been very busy during the night,
but it's always hard not to get
taken aback by the strange sensation
and immediately begin brushing
my face and my hair with both hands.
Naturally, this is worse than
useless. I can never see
or even find the damn thread. Some things
are just too fine, too delicate for the size
of a person, I guess.

So I press on. Though for a second
or two, I confess the invisible
stickiness of these threads
gives me the urge to turn around and head
back inside, back to bed.
You couldn't really blame me for that,
though, I suppose. In fact,
more and more I find myself supposing
one day, you won't really
blame me for anything.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

JUST

I should just be grateful
for the whole thing. I am, too
really. I should say so. I should
tell you. But I won't

risk ruining it. I can't decide what I'm
supposed to do instead, though,
so I'm waiting. Just gazing
hard at quiet light on the floor.

Sunday morning. No music plays,
no Velvet Underground or anything.
Books on the table. But all
are closed up now. My voice is gone

and the coffee's gone too. I regret
that, as usual. But you know
how I always think it'd just be
a waste to make any more.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

NO BIG DEAL

So many dis-
orienting
things have happened already

that I don't think twice now
when I walk past the sunflower
on the edge of the sidewalk

which was just a stalk
yesterday morning.
A slight roil of wind—

no big deal—
blowing another little
swirl inside the mind. What about

the gardens of churning stars
we used to see as
kids—whose big idea

was that, I wonder—whose
dizzy distortions
of children were those?

Friday, September 13, 2019

ORTHOGONAL

It's what they call
an elegant (read: deceptively
simple) equation:

a loss
over time
equals

a sort of distributed ratio
known as losing;
e.g. a knot

becoming such
and such a size—
and me

still waiting
around independently
for its loosening.

I just want to tell you
how much I've
enjoyed your company,

but even that
I can't seem to
do yet.

Which at
least makes
more intuitive sense:

can't divide two
prior things
and expect

to get something completely
new, now
can you?

Thursday, September 12, 2019

THE PLAN

Those lights in the sky—
we are told
to call them stars—they burn
though every last atom
of matter in their bodies
until they die.

Until the slag at the center
of their hearts
explodes. Until
their starving invisible ghosts
go sucking and tearing
searing holes in the universe.

But it's alright
we tell ourselves. It's okay
we'll say to someone else
who loves us—this has
always been the plan. They are supposed
to do that.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

GRATUITOUS

          —September 11, 2019


Would anybody
today in the world trade
no hope
for no despair? I would. I wouldn't
care whether
the two were equivalent

either. Tomorrow
is such a gratuitous balm—
I mean
it seems to cost nothing
to keep
slathering on. But

the past—
feels so jagged
crystalline
complex—so inevitable
to me when
that's what we keep calling it.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

THE ONE

Like a sunflower
that follows every
moment of the sun—I

am a slave
with no brain
who cannot even

see you're the one
in charge.


Monday, September 9, 2019

OBBLIGATO

When I say this,
does the papery half-
moon make sense to you?

Could an inkblot
cloud oozing dirty across it
cause it

to make any more
or any less?
My guess is

they were wrong
about a universe
made of grammar; but maybe

there is
still a hierarchical order,
a syntax

of all the hidden things out there,
which—and here's where
I always struggle

to complete that thought,
and where you continue
to find it

so interesting,
even though by now it isn't
at all unusual.

Sunday, September 8, 2019

THE END OF THINGS

Each day, I'm so busy—
I think 
and I think, until every
niggling thought is gone. Believe me, 
it's not easy

constantly racing 
to the bottom 
of plots; so furious 
to get to the end of things. And yet 
the nights

are so empty—nothing left 
in these 
drained containers 
except: that inhospitable vacuum  
of memory.


Saturday, September 7, 2019

A POEM, NOT A NOVEL

Look—I don't want to
tell you my life story; I am not
curious about yours or
what exactly happened back there.
I just want to take
one minute of one single day and
make it a little bit
sweeter to have wasted:
a nervous kiss, half
a cigarette, a morsel of chocolate—
the word morsel, for
that matter, or the word resplendent
deployed right at sunset.
Listen—the succor of hiatus 
is what I solicit. Long term, no way
could this ever work.

Friday, September 6, 2019

TURNING TO POETRY


Year by year, our complexions
seem to worsen.
Every pockmark or pimple
is a jot we should have written,
each new wrinkle,
some metaphor we've failed
to explore—or an image
we'd barely dirtied our minds on
before abandoning for the sake
of a cleaner-cut conversation.

Every line which hasn't been
elongated successfully
is another ligament tightening,
until we begin to feel
whole stanzas still inside us
one by one, shuttering their doors,
cooling down, getting dusty—
the way joints get rusty,
cartilage hardens, and breathing
and bloodflow begin to slow.

What are these statues
we're all turning into? What
grotesque creature (and from
where?) do we slouch toward?
Which crumpled object, cracked
nationalist symbol, club-footed
iamb, or hoarse-whispered word?
Maybe things don't fall apart;
maybe they just harden,
and harden, and conserve—until

all life is
is arches and serifs;
some are just slightly
ahead of the curve:
from Abraham and Sarah,
to Binkie and Herb—
everyone on earth
who has ever existed
sooner or later
is a word.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

STARVING

for bread—you must
pick yourself up
by the bootstraps;

for roses—quit
pulling yourself
up by the roots.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

FALSE ALARM

Ten a.m.—must be the first
Tuesday of the month: time
to test every emergency
siren, all at once. I wonder,

Has someone determined
that Ten a.m. on Tuesday
is the least likely time for an
actual disaster? Is it just

too soon in the week
for the great apes
and the lions to escape?
Too early in the day perhaps,

to incur the rage and mania
of a battered mother
nature? Am I really so sure
that I'm sitting too far west

to finally anger Zeus
into reanimating the Gorgons
for having picked the wrong
religion all along? (Although,

would that one really
be so bad, anyway? To be
stone-still, to be spared all this,
and to last?) Just ten or so

more seconds to go now—until
the shrill whistles finish blaring
their counterfactual bulletins
of Warning, Warning, Warning;

This Is Your Imminent 
Emergency Warning 
That There Currently Is No Such
Imminent Emergency.

And then: on a dime at
one minute after—that feeling,
not of relief, but of something
which is nothing,

something which it seems like I've
only been rehearsing feeling,
something I can't quite
put our finger on—I can

only say for sure that it must be
a feeling I feel routinely
relieved to have failed
to feel for real.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

CRAZY ABOUT LUNA

I've got a girl who comes
around every night—
no matter what
her day has been like.

I bask in the glow of a
bride who's dependable. After she
binges, she purges—
so she never really changes.

This woman worships the very
festering earth that I walk on.
But she's clean. And careful
not to give in to those urges.

She's an angel, ghostly pale
and powdered smooth.
And so she prefers me bonesmooth
and bonewhite too.

We don't have to talk. When I
blink, she blinks. When I wink,
she wobbles. She doesn't drink
but doesn't mind if I do—as long

as we continue to dance
wild tarantellas on this
lawn by the heaving
sea until dawn. And as long as

the shimmering night tide
is jealous, keeps snapping its
million little pictures each second—
I'll look smug and satisfied. I'll lie

at night, my chin raised, my
gaze fixed to that one certain
place in the sky—like the most
requited dead man alive.

Monday, September 2, 2019

SPACE FOR LUCY

Thank goodness
for a whisker

for the few
coarse copper hairs—

little stowaways
still clinging

to the disconsolate
underside of cushions—

all these
lazy days

all these harrowing
years later.

Sunday, September 1, 2019

NOBODY'S PERFECT

Once you're an adult
and you're living alone,
you'll finally do whatever
you want to do—just
because you can. You'll
wear the same clothes
and eat with your hands
and work on poems all
morning, then take naps
in the middle of every
afternoon. You'll never
have to talk to anyone
you truly get along with.
At night, you won't
go out—you'll just lurk
around, or lounge;
you'll loaf on the couch.
You could smoke
indoors if you wanted
to—but you don't.
You'll get to watch the shows
you want, then throw-
out your television
the moment you suspect
that you've begun
to outgrow it. In fact,
you'll throw out most
of your furniture
while you're at it—
and your books
and your dishes
and your coats
and your shoes
and those old pictures
and most of the food
in your refrigerator—since
no one you love is coming
home expecting dinner.
Not ever again, as far
as you can guess. So it's
burgers again. Hell—it's
burgers for breakfast.
Nobody's perfect. This is
so much simpler.

Saturday, August 31, 2019

HERE'S WHERE THE POEM COMES IN

It's probably
true, the soul
likes its strictness—yes,

it actually desires
its tightness
and its rigor.

it longs to be stiff,
wants to stick
to the classics—it insists

on complete
silence in the library,
on reading (by candlelight)

canonical literature
mistrustfully and critically,
on going straight

to the Sanskrit
or ramming Derrida hard-
as-it-can at Saussure.

However—the soul
is also smooth,
completely

edgeless,
and invisible. As such,
it must also crave

to be mistaken,
to feel stupid—and often
misrepresented;

to get taken
for the proverbial
ride and even get

called a little son
of a bitch, now and then,
by courtroom men in

tailored suits or brimstone-
eyed priests
in identical robes.

It has no mother, either,
so it must be used to
being overlooked

by heroic
women in white
coats or blue uniforms

who routinely check
the body, not for a soul
at all, but just

for a pulse,
for a heartbeat,
for a certain rhythm

that resembles—
which perfectly
rigid military

march, what turgid
German symphonic
masterpiece, exactly?

Friday, August 30, 2019

ABSTRACT EXPRESSION

The thing about living
on planet Earth is

the Sun
always seeming
from this perspective, to rise

of its own volition—
each morning
glory petal uncurling

the same way its
light arcs and turns dreamy

through the green glass
which is strewn
around everywhere:

Rolling Rock, maybe
San Pellegrino—

domesticated German, wild
Latinate words combining,

disposable shells
of desperation
and sensibility,

all these trivial
husks of hard money—

all divorced, but
each kissed into glimmering
in the same decisive way;

coerced to cohere—
to mingle
in this loamy alley

like Rothkos
in their gallery.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

DREADING COMPANY

Don't worry—the little awkward
silences you encounter
are nothing at all

like the cracks
in a load-bearing wall.

And—though they thread
and filament through the fabric
of your prefab interactions
and artless attempts at cooperation,

conspicuous as the spider
veins on the legs of your grandmother

or the capillaries
inside your eyes every night
when you stare for too long
at the bathroom mirror—these pauses

are not empty gaps.
Hesitation

is much sturdier, much
stronger than that.

Think of the rebar
under miles of concrete
keeping the road you must one day take

to the hospital from falling
into complete disrepair;
think of the mortar

which holds tight to the bricks
of all the mausoleums out there
built to contain the remains

of each bygone day—
which, like it
or not, we are tirelessly building,

every minute,
every second—stone

by inane little stone—whether we're
doing it alone
or together.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

LOST HAIKU CONTEST


Strange feeling to get—

a certain image: not shit

like certain feelings.



Image result for lost

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

THE SAFETY'S ON OL' BETSY

Ghostly-paler nights, closer-
and closer-away disasters—

this is no Disney park;
no handholds, no boardwalk of nations,

no lanterns—visible stars, like
lights in the harbor. Far too dangerous

to be seen, to get caught
thinking—let alone to just imagine

the thought
as: only the post-conscious representation 

of a prior neural-chemical action 
over which we as agents had 

no control. 
We had no idea.

Why would we
listen—why lay down our arms

with intent
to become weapons instead?

Why come, increasingly, with user
instructions and warnings, why bother

to refashion ourselves next time
thinner, lighter, smaller?

Why no longer try to conceal ourselves
in order to carry

one another across certainty's borders?
Ghostlier and ghostlier,

smoother and smoother—over time
we might come to trust ourselves

not as guns, but as their
hair triggers—if we are moved to act,

it is because we got bumped, not
squeezed by an omnipotent finger.

Monday, August 26, 2019

THE ABSENCE OF THE IMAGINATION

          The absence of the imagination had
          itself to be imagined.
                —Wallace Stevens, "The Plain
                     Sense of Things"

Make it new,
make it plain,
make it sing, no ideas

but in things—now
who am I?
And how is it right to talk

in a future
where I'm
seeing digital pictures

of those things
instead of originals?

Like, just this morning—
the towering
figure of a guy

so prim in his black
and white suit and tie,

so shy—so 1945 New-
England-buttoned-down, he'd likely
never have said fuck at all

the way I do so
casually today,
whether out in public

or mired like this,
in a much plainer poem
(sketched, by the way,

in pajamas on a smartphone)
about far less plain things—
such as my own disillusionment

with images. Or else, the way
I've taken all these
pictures for granted.

I've never really known
the full weight
of physical media,

felt the fineness of excess
or correctness of old
catastrophes—

let alone
straightened my dour tie and
proceeded to imagine, somehow

much more wildly
impossible things:

the bronzed edges of space
where golden birds sing
their wordless songs

of thought, perched firmly
on a palm

of a hand
which might be mine,
or might be

the frond of a tree
still growing, even now—
still blowing

in the same slow wind
at the end of the mind.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

JUST A SECOND, ALL THE TIME

Clean rows
of colorless cemetery
stones, hard-edged

at the end of the day, stabbing
all their shadows
uniformly eastward—

already stark
nighttime
in that part of the world;

somewhere beyond
that—already tomorrow. Pinks again,
oranges, yellows; a light

breakfast
tasting just thoughtlessly
alright to someone.

First, grace: a life
never seems neat until it's
bound and finished.

Then, mercy:
the reassuring smell
of wet grass dissipates

once you round the bend
and realize—you don't have
time for this.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

REVELATION

This is a collection of verses
scrawled to your self in the future
by homeless men—

a few sprawled on benches,
one or two in smart nooks
between tree trunks—

all strewn across the park
in the late
August dawn.

It was first sounded out on the breeze;
it whispers of adversaries,
wails of the sort

of contention which
the conspicuous
absence of women portends—

it warns you:
every morning (so far) is similar,
but it could have been very different;

it ruins the old lines,
stale soup queues now not even
worth standing in;

it trumpets: the gold rush is over
on compassion, there's a run
on cooperation. The foliage ringing

on the outskirts is still
green, but it knows:
presently

all is nourished, is kissed
by vague sun—but
by and by, every island paradise

in the city will be fumigated,
then cleansed—if not by a flood
of rain water, then

by the bitter
certain cruelty of the coming
season's wind.

Friday, August 23, 2019

AN IMPRESSION

This morning:
the early clouds—soft
gauze

swathing last night's
dreams, still-raw—
steered

harmlessly now,
out past
the veil

of existence
by cool pulses of wind—
an impression

of
sky moving
outward forever;

a suspicion
of never
having been

more certain
about blue—less sure
of the word for it.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

THE IMMORTAL MADE SIMPLE

Try this—
place a good little
gift shop bouquet

of red local
flowers on the table
near the window

in their
hospital room at
the right time of day—

then watch
for a minute (though they
aren't awake)

the auroras cascade:
the amaranthine import
of Art itself

flooding in
to drench the tedious
and inconsequential,

the antiseptic gray
space in which Commonplace
necessarily exists—

and then come
home and tell me
you still don't know

what forever
is, or today
was for.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

OBSERVANCE

From that first catastrophe of dawn,
the liturgies of sun, of wind, or
of rain; the driving, idling bit
by bit in this or that room, consuming
sacraments until they're gone—

to the inevitable slouching,
the slow bowing-down and the
penitent crawl toward reconciliation
with twilight and night as they play

out on television—no one we would
shudder to recognize as formerly living
ever comes. The miracle: there never was
a minute of perfect blameless silence
all day long. Not even one.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

WITHERING

       Though leaves are many, the root is one;
       Through all the lying days of my youth
       I swayed my leaves and flowers in the sun;
       Now I may wither into the truth.
              -W.B. Yeats, "The Coming Of 
               Wisdom With Time"


How many drafts 
does it take 
for a wild poem to atrophy
into its spare and abiding truth? 

How many 
barely differing iterations 
for its flashy lines to stiffen 
and darken, 

for its wettest words to dry, its dazzling 
images to soften 
into such well-defined textures 
and restrained colors 

that any artistically-inclined 
eye in the future 
could easily reproduce them, as if 
painting by-numbers? 

How many nights 
to name 
the full moon titanium- 
or maybe dove-white 

such that, 
in the mind of a person 
whom I don't even know 
that I love yet, it never wanes; 

or to define the morning 
light which streams 
through my window simply
as yellow ochre—

and, perfectly satisfied 
with the very certain kind of longing 
I've conveyed, just turn away
and leave it at that? 

Monday, August 19, 2019

FRUITION

That almost cloying sweetness
of summer—
all the blossoms
spinning spare sugar
out of the extra hours of light,

the blue lusciousness
of water and the
candied stripes of tree shade,

our skin, and the skins of our
daughters and sons, like peaches
and nectarines blushing
pleasantly darker with
the slow simmer of each passing day—

these things make it possible
not to endure, but to ignore—
or obfuscate for a little longer—
to mask the bitter tang of death which
always smolders in the background.

Idle afternoons induce in us daydreams
not of stingy bees' stingers
but their generous amber
honey soothing
the backs of our ticklish throats;

we forget
how true it is,
and how telling

that whichever holy specimen
of fruit we are handed—
however ripe and juicy, bewilderingly
redolent, immeasurably round—

the most perfect thing
we can think to do
is bite into it;

to destroy that integrity,
to take every fraction of its cool
sweet perfection, reduce it, and
lock it away deep inside—

as if somehow, we could force
even the smallest truth
to be ours and
ours alone.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

THE THING WITH FEATHERS

          "Hope" is the thing with feathers—
          That perches in the soul—
                    —Emily Dickinson

So, wait—but which
particular bird
was Hope, again? The dark
raven, no,

the white dove—
doesn't matter
much, I suppose, since I haven't
seen either around

here for a while—just this one
slight silver crane,
made from a carefully
folded old gum wrapper

which lies belly-up
and gleams for a second each morning
when I open the flooded top
drawer of my desk;

but I think it's safe to say
this one's given up its quest—
which was never for Hope, anyway
but of course, for Peace and Love—

in the name of bestowing its
little specious branches
of Peace and Quiet, daily, upon this
shabby ark, instead.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

BELIEVE IT OR NOT

the lights are still
on somewhere—
There is nothing

at their center—
Nothing
at the boundary

Friday, August 16, 2019

QUIXOTIC

Astonishing how
the impetuous morning glories—
their fluted violet
petals near-translucent
in the onrushing
light of the dawning world,
their young tendrils heroically
messy and untamable—
are still so eager
to drape their spry substance
around the perfectly
ordinary: wrought iron fences,
long rows of tall black,
machined en masse
for the purpose of keeping
one particular stripe
of life in each neighborhood
separate and abstractly
protected from the others.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

THE CATCH

It's all the daily floating
irritations in your eye which blind you
to the beauty you may somehow
yet be making from their shavings

for the sake of a beholder
whose tastes and purpose
your nervous system was never
built to imagine—what is a pearl anyway

but thankless work
done in secret around oversensitivity;
a little tenderness over time growing
too unwieldy for the oyster.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

THE DEVIL YOU KNOW

Most days I don't see
anyone—

just dogs
halls doors lawns.

This
seems fine.

These silent creatures
and I, we get along

famously
as all the creeping things in Eden.

Then again, if I
were Adam

this paradise
wouldn't have lasted long

as I'd have balked
at the prospect of sacrificing

one iota
of its staid perfection.

I would never consent
to the theft

of an inch;
not one ounce,

not a minute—
let alone

the indispensable
symmetry of my rib cage

for the sake of
conversation.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

THE DRY SPELL REBELLION

Too early for autumn, so I had to
convince myself I saw
above the street this morning

a whole fleet, an army,
an air force of brown pointed
leaves going AWOL,

madly abandoning its
camp in a tree—but (as if refusing
both surrender and retreat)

exploding up instead of falling,
then executing a quick barrel rolled
burst along the horizontal,

breaking for freedom
with all of its might—like a scrappy
half-starved young colony

of sparrows, who would rather
their poor overtaxed
hearts give out from the fight

than stay put and continue
to exist in my mind's stultifying
grip of persecution.

Monday, August 12, 2019

STEP ZERO

Before the first thing,
morning itself

searches 
for a body—wet chocolate

or warm
milk in color;

torso, cagey
gnarl of limbs,

any weird
protuberances dangling—

preposterous illusion
of indelibility,

of familiarity:
always the same

incentivizing
degree of unrecognizable.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

DIAGRAM YOUR LIFE

Forget about
arriving (somewhere
you have

heard this);
what's important
is the journey.

I'm curious
what all the paths would
say about that:

striding
versus striving—how quickly
muddied,

how complex
the physics of
simplicity gets.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

DOG DAYS

Like the first time it
weightlessly
darkens your mind

that you've almost been
at the same
task for too long,

so the rainlessness
gradually bakes
its cracks and imperfections

into mid-August.
From park to mangy parkway,
nothing fresh

is happening—
just the slow bleaching
and rusting of status quos 

which typify hard-won
and wistfully
lackadaisical midlife.

Dog days,
we call them—the shaggy
glaucomic old hunters

nosing already for
that twinge
of September,

that shiver—a portent
without any
prompt from memory:

death will return here
as beauty's young
heiress, not it's mother.

Friday, August 9, 2019

THAT ONE ANNOYING POEM IN YOUR NEWSFEED

I know. Right now,
as you read this,
or listen—so many things

you're not seeing, will not have
heard this morning.
For every thrush that's

chirping—which rain forest?
Every last night's gauzy
dream—whose murder?

Authorities maintain:
every siren in the distance,
every gallant black

batman-looking
helicopter on the scene—is hope
and significance,

provides solace and
explication, bakes another brick
into a biblical tower.

But as far
as our starved and poverty-
stricken insight is concerned:

silence is the mortar.
Traffic conditions matter.
The weather

affects construction schedules.
Not always, but
some days might start

with the premise:
What if there weren't any 
small questions? 

Thursday, August 8, 2019

PERFECT MIRACLE

We aren't true believers, but still
in our hands, the calendar
is transformed into

a rosary; one at a time
we allow its worn beads
to slip through our warm and

penitent fingers, intently repeating
the same sentences
in the same orders—

entreating the universe
conjuring, from breath and air
pressure alone, the one and only

truly perfect miracle:
the stamina with which
to sustain the illusion—

a frail human notion
that devotion alone
constitutes sequence,

as if anything regarding
inward reflection's
procedure were volitional,

as if allowing 
could explain what we find
ourselves doing,

as if we were the ones letting
the days go by.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

WEDNESDAYS

Certain days, when I feel
stuck, disempowered—
when there's

a creature in
the corner of the
room I can't acknowledge—

I'll sit down and look at
the word written-out:
W-E-D-N-E-S DAY

while allowing my
mind to pronounce
it as: Wenz / day.

The simple simultaneity
of the discrepancy
is such a relief; as if a thing

which is two things,
is all you need to triangulate
the size of your life—

to walk the uncharted
perimeter of its shape;
to peer in one misty

window—then another;
listening both places for
the better music,

but hearing
the exact same thing,
whether it's

this little baby getting
sung-to—or that little one,
gently wept-over.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

LOOKING FOR HOME

Almost (but not quite) like
a Renaissance painter
who has masterfully hidden his
face somewhere

in every Last
Supper or
Agony in the Garden,
Sometimes I think there is

a little lost dog inside
everything I write—
perhaps a scrappy black-
and-white terrier named Richard

who goes searching all night
for that one signature
door frame he knows, combing row
after row of my odd

bumpy prose like
cold cobblestones
in the alleys of a hamlet called
Hyrule Castle Town

long after the market bazaars
have closed down and his owner—
a plump moon-
faced woman, whose name

might even be Mamayu Yan
has returned home alone
to weep and pace worried
infinity symbols

around the stark wood interior
one of my many
flimsily-built medieval
slums of a stanza.

Monday, August 5, 2019

HOW TO WIN THE POEM

Work with regularity
and weightiness a while

to form the mallet
of your timing,

to whack-a-mole
those rising bubblelike

holes in all your feelings.
Sometimes you'll see them

because they gleam
with rhyme—

others because
it makes you furious

to the point of near
blindness when they won't.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

5 6 7 8

Between the counts
of one and two,
something furious must
go missing;

between two and three persists 
a distraction, an Instagram picture: 
an idyllic waterfall—with Sisyphus 
photoshopped down at the bottom;

three will only hook-up with four 
the way a pale green door fits 
with its frame—thin ribbons of empty 
space all around it, 

a rectangle of light 
escaping from an off-limits interior 
too reminiscent of the house you 
grew up in to bear. 

For the choreographer—
whose idea of truth 
fits inside the cramped beauty of space
like lace

slippers inside a white 
workaday box,
whose escape from the real is 
the regimentation of the possible—

such profligate ciphers
must leave
not enough, or else too many
rooms for error.

Friday, August 2, 2019

JEALOUS GUY

There are certain disadvantages
to not believing in god

I remind myself grasping
and embracing are

not the same thing
but at some point one

turns into the other
for instance those people

who think they
were John Lennon in a past life

but still a charm
that works like a charm

in the wilderness that exists
out past the garden footpath

must be the the end
of the whole discussion

the sunflower
a bewildering eclipse overhead

the staggered majesty of
Douglas fir mountains

what are these
but swirls of light and matter

forms of that madness
which does no harm?

Thursday, August 1, 2019

FISH ARE JUMPING, COTTON IS HIGH

In the dream, it is never raining.
The bees have plenty of time to talk.
The cotton is high, but the corn
is green and neat, and, though it nods,

it isn't listening. Above tree crowns,
the sky has become its own flag:
proud blue and rippling with starlings.
Beneath, huge fish—all exhilarated,

all silver—bullet their glistening
bodies upstream to spawn.
But then, something happens;
something dawns, or someone speaks—

in the gravel bed, an idea has dropped
and broken open; the honey turns
sweet and begins to get heavy.
The bees, those once-lithe teachers,

are drowsy. Clouds gather at far corners
like rumors: those salmon are running
toward suicide—and yet, soon every
reluctant student will wake and return.

LOVE POEM FOR THE WHOLE WORLD

You and me—
in such perfect sync

we never even
think of each other.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

AUTUMN CHILD

I am a fall child; I arrived
in October—those rough days
of angles and auburn,

the smell of thick stew,
and the texture of book pages
in light from a wonderfully shrewd
consolidation of afternoon.

So if I'm caught off-guard now
by these humid blue breezes,
the post-rain swelter
of gutter puddles evaporating—

if I am cautious
to discharge wool socks;
to fire my shirt sleeves, roll up pant
cuffs, and go wading
off into the lush quiche
of a muggy summer street festival—

it may be
because each always feels like
the first one I've ever seen,

and I'm dubious.
I still suspect I might be better off
back in the comfortable-
temperatured dark,

before there was even mock-
twilight to speak of:
just me and my heartbeat, listening
to this season, not experiencing it;

instead of believing,
make-believing
I haven't even been born yet.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

DAY-TO-DAY

My body this morning—
a disheveled high-rise in the 1980s.

Blood, phlegm, lymphatic fluid—all
the disparate wearied residents
trudging reluctant through its
paper-thin halls.

Organs—online, but struggling
appliances—coffee makers,
dish washers, sputtering

and spitting out their
proxies for day-to-day existence.

Bones—the rattling ductwork,
concealed by repeat-stressed and
yellowing ligaments
of bored and boring drop ceiling.

Several lightbulbs blinking,
several gone out,
several more missing—

luckily not appendages or teeth.
Perhaps these
are my viewpoints,

affiliations, closed perspectives;
the rueful
poverty-stricken condition of

my never-inspected
subjectivity. And yet, I can feel
new ideas stirring:

those wispy stray and
secretive ones—moths in the back
of some mildewed closet;

those scattered few
which are actionable—
all hard-hats, all cool shiny

boots on the ground—black roaches
in one of the bathrooms.

Monday, July 29, 2019

WAKING UP WITHOUT AN ALARM

First thing
in the morning,

emerging
from the furniture;

clockless time—
arriving completely

as a package does, as a
newspaper

slaps against
(imaginary) edifice of brick—

light through blind slits:
hieroglyphics,

staff paper
to the musical novice.

Any guesses? Any requests? Any hints?
Hamper, bedside table, pull-

chain combination
fan and light fixtureeverything

is landing—
nothing sticks.

a stiff rug,
winterwarm, the

summercold
hardwood—seasons pass over.

which
day is this?

Sunday, July 28, 2019

MORTALITY

It's like—you know you know
the sky is blue;

you don't need some poem
to throttle it into you.

But every time you look through
the window,

it both thrills
and
unnerves you a little

to poke
at the smoldering discovery.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

ORTHODOXY

One day
a mosquito lands
on the ashen planet of your ankle,

claims this land
in the name of Queen Whichever,
or perhaps God—

not God in the abstract,
but the immense
expanding and contracting

hide
of one heartsick African
elephant in particular—whereupon

it plants a funny kind
of flag, and makes to
refuel the ship before blast-off.

You—the you who
construes this
on a green-painted zoo bench—

you are not God.
You are no one
to it: sheer alien surface,

concealing new potentialities
of the most essential resources.
It

is most definitely
nothing to you.
Not even this. This

is artifice; another kind
of surface,
a different kind of exhibit.

The unreconstructed
truth—you never even
noticed it.

Friday, July 26, 2019

LES FLEURS DU MAL

Yes, it makes sense: Evil
always has its roots, so it must
by extension, have its
blossoms too—and Goodness

they say, in time, bears fruit,
ensuring its perpetuation
with its own sweet reward.
But what about

the potential efflorescence
of simply not caring, one
way or the other? How come
no one seems to wonder

how fresh-faced and mysterious
could be those alternate
shapes that would hang
on the stems of no preference,

no inclination, no opinion?
Imagine for a moment those
First Prize-winning specimens:
their angles razor-sharp—

from years of assiduously
doing no harm to anyone—
perfectly contrasted
with the voluptuous contours

of never having lifted one
finger in assistance.
After all, it's so common 
to be greedy and dishonest;

so garden to be a champion
of positivity in all circumstances.
How exquisite a life might look
in contrast, how achingly rare

and masterfully complex
to cultivate within in its vast
arable landscape
the Flowers of Nonchalance.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

DAILY WRITING PROMPT

Not purity
initially, but

purity
by purifying.

Not inborn
beauty's

vanity, but
vanities

made and
demonstrated.

Discipline,
not punishment;

ministry,
not religion.

Revision
is musicianship;

the instrument
is rhythm.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

TOUCH ME NOT

Red impatiens
white impatiens
pink impatiens
yellow—dilating

in an obscured
sort of row

on the easement
adjacent to this
fraught intersection—oh

how I adore
that no one asks what's
best for you;

they've just left
you alone to
do the one
thing you

already knew
how to do.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

"HOW CAN YOU STAND TO LIVE IN A CITY?"

It starts with the steady
daily comfort
of cars—

hundreds
of them glinting, perhaps
thousands, in

far light. All
so similar, all parked
strangers' cars,

ordered in penitent
columns and hugging
every serviceable curb in sight.

A sweet constancy—
quite unlike that
of the stars

burning in their
fixed points
out in the country—

whose cloyingness
is tempered
by the salty indeterminacy

as to
which cars, specifically, on
any given morning.

Monday, July 22, 2019

THE EXISTENTIALIST'S TRIP

Nobody else besides you
seems to know—the real value
of vacation isn't memories,
souvenirs, or entertainment;

it's the momentary compression
of the whole agonizing world—
all the purposelessness
and politics, the goal-

seeking and codependency,
all the cold- and hot-
running lust, hunger, dread,
and work/life stress—

into the neat strip of wood
and concrete they
succinctly refer to as
Main Street around here.

And boy, oh boy, wouldn't you
like to shake
hands with this mayor?
For a few soothing days' worth

of saunters, it's: never mind 
the bullocks and the dregs;
never mind the low back pain,
memory loss, and constipation.

Instead of detailing these
internal feelings, you'll catalog
the scenery; and in lieu of periodically
ducking conversation,

you'll duck a little quicker
into corner wine and cheese shops;
and instead of a bad loan, a
long grudge, a struggling marriage;

you'll take some coconut fudge, please,
hold the string of a glossy red
kite in the park, or heck—
maybe simply dose off for a minute

in a warm canvas chair near the pier,
secure in the knowledge
that if it all has to end, at least it'll
all end right there.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

MACKINAC ISLAND WILDFLOWERS

On a rag and bone specimen
of Great Lakes limestone,
between cedars, lining
buggy paths, blurring the bed

and breakfasts' backyards:
lambent shaggy pilewort clusters—
sun-mad, puddle-thick
low-growing buttercups

swirled around everywhere—like
tobacco smoke, like husky
flute notes, like the ancient Native
American narratives

now breezily used as tourist lures.
Or perhaps,
like Apollo
as an unkempt senior citizen—

Eternal Sunshine himself
come to roost forevermore,
to rest anonymous at last
one July afternoon

on the sleepiest,
most wonderfully
outmoded—and forgetful surface
of the Earth.

Friday, July 19, 2019

VAULTING AMBITION

          I have no spur 
          to prick the sides of my intent, but only 
          the vaulting ambition, which o'erleaps itself, 
          and falls on th'other...
                —Macbeth Act I, Scene 7 .25-28

While hopefully not
quite at Macbeth-level, I admit
to being driven

by the vaulting ambition
to someday write
the greatest poem ever

concerning the heights of human folly.
With each new stab
of the rhetorical knife, I feel

I'm getting closer to
glimpsing the top,
though strangely, not any better

equipped to explain
after the fact, the path by which
I marched up there—because

the worst trait in the world
keeps changing day to day
and minute by minute

(not to mention
those inevitable handicaps
of subjectivity

and translation; character defects
being so disparate
person to person

and place to place).
My latest strategy
is to approach the mood

obliquely—not face to face,
but through a glass
darkly. That is: I take a few sips

of iced coffee each morning
on the back patio while
perusing a few tragedies,

purloining certain key phrases
and re-triangulating
their inclinations. In fact,

as the great Thane
of Cawdor himself discovered
fairly quickly,

the whole endeavor
seems to boil down
to a solitary game

of keeping the plates spinning
and explaining any
cognitive dissonances

not as madness,
but as part of life's
dynamism—for example,

privately plotting
to rid oneself eventually
of those indwelling gremlins

which one hates most,
while still staying faithfully
married to them in the interim.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

PATTERN RECOGNITION

How familiar is this feeling
that it's about to rain, how
dead simple to go and look out a
west-facing window and
watch this ominous thing approach—
less like some work of tragic
flash fiction than like the surfeit of
bad dreams you've been having—
which are, you must try and
remind yourself constantly: terribly 
real, but not at all true.
How normal for your little corner
of the world to go so
intermittently dark and strange;
how comfortable it is to dislike
what you're seeing
when it's all over the news that
you're not alone in your views;
how encouragingly consistent
with your poor tortured body
is the entire abused and
mistreated world all around you:
continually getting rinsed, then
dried off a little, but never once
offered the chance to start new.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

THOUGHT EXPERIMENT

It's a lot to unpack: whether
the little collective

of coffee beans I automatically
pulverize each morning—

then sluice
boiled water through—

then throw in the trash
and distractedly

sip the resultant brew
while reading a few Tweets before

dashing out the door—
was heretofore treated equitably

on its journey
from Ecuador to Chicago.

Most days, I'm too distracted
by my ongoing lack

of contentment, too worn out
from last night's argument

at the bar, or else
I just find it a little too convenient-

ly early to contemplate:
whether there is really

such a thing as
a good person,

a better thought,
a noble action—

or if it just feels that way
by comparison

when one tends to go around
thoughtlessly extracting

only those bits
which are most useful

from one
bitter assemblage—

one shit-
situation—after another.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

MASSES

Astounding—the dark clouds
which have gathered
this morning

could only have come
from nowhere,
could only be going

nowhere. And yet,
here we are
beneath them again—the believers,

sipping our coffee
a bit more devotionally,
letting our eyes wander

that much more slowly
over a few extra columns
of the day's first reading,

wavering a little longer
in the dimly lit front halls
where the rain jackets

and umbrellas are reverently hanging,
before diffidently opening
and closing our large doors

and beginning the gravid procession,
to and fro, past one another
without candles

or crosses—but because
we recognize
the damp feeling of being

audited
from an alter
somewhere behind a screen—

with our heads bowed
automatically a little
closer to our arched shoulders.

Monday, July 15, 2019

DOCUMENT

Back home for a holiday,
watching smudged approximations
of former special
occasions on television

as magnetic tape slithers—
unspooling and recoiling away
inside its thirty-year-old
VHS case—I'm wondering

if blurry is even the right word
to describe what it is I—
and mom and dad
and Jeffery—are seeing.

I don't remember being there
that time I turned seven
and the ice cream cake's candles
proved too tricky for me to handle

any more than they can
seem to recall plotting it, snickering,
and bearing witness. And yet,
here it is (albeit dark and a

bit fuzzy): proof positive
that it happened; that it was brutal
and savage—and that, still, somehow
the dispassionate world

kept on turning.
But I can't help but figure
that, if he were here, my tight-lipped
old Grandpa would remember

operating all of those arcane controls,
forcing his one good eye
into the uncomfortably
hot rubber socket

of a cumbrous state-of-the-art machine,
and proceeding to achieve
his cold sober objective—like
it was yesterday.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

ALWAYS

Out of what must be millions
upon millions of those
maple tree whirlybirds,

my eye
always seems to focus
on one ruddy outlier

as it helicopters—
perilous, heroic,
and lonely—out and down

to some very likely inhospitable
patch of new ground.
And I wonder,

for the thousandth time,
whether
everything I am

is just all the things I can't
stop doing.
And then, for the first:

what will become of that heap
if I keep neglecting
to sweep it

since I'm always
so busy jotting-
down these spare phenomena.

Friday, July 12, 2019

AFTER THE POEM IS DONE

Of the tens of murky self-
similar thousands,
there is only one

crystalline moment
immediately after
the poem is done

in which I don't feel exceptional
pressure to explain
anything to anyone;

not the intimate
nature of my relationship
to friction and its coefficients,

not the gory details
of my long-standing three way
with Gravity and the Normal Force,

not even the vague way in which
uselessness wells up and
clashes with hope

when I stop to acknowledge
the velocity at which
the surface of the earth has been rotating.

For one rock-solid second,
I feel obligated
never to explain

anything that's been going on with me
ever again.
And when this happens,

it's such a strange combination of
a relief
and a rush,

a hybridized feeling
so complete, yet unique—
almost to the point

of being unheard-of—that
just this once, I
had to tell someone.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

MATHEMATICALLY SPEAKING

Still thinking about you every
so often, I wonder whether
the paradox of Zeno

isn't the real reason
I still feel safe reaching—
across camouflaged time

and dubiously
empty space, tiptoeing lightly
as I pass

around all the noisy hollow
containers, the trash left over
from sugary memories,

and the pale changeling bodies
of every possible
unborn child—

and if simply halving the distance
stepping by-numbers,
then fractions

of numbers,
isn't the best, if not only way
to move forward

incorporeally
toward what I take to be
your face,

two outstretched
arms, and chest—in a theoretically
classic gesture

of comfort
and genuine condolence,
without ever

having, mathematically
speaking, to wreck all that
by embracing.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

FIRST PLACE

At the starting line, there are so often
things we mean to write or say
aphoristically—but it
never turns out that way.

In no time flat, the words begin
to clump in herds,
to yoke themselves up—and we
can't resist plowing

aimlessly forward:
mowing down the clean
mentality of trees,
uprooting the humbler mammals'

homes as we go on constructing
another eight lane road to god-
knows-where, without even caring
which direction we're going.

But then, where in hell have aphorisms
ever gotten us anyway?
I remember hearing once, for instance,
that love is all you need,

that it'd be just the thing
to light the way, to show me
where I was going and
where I would stay.

But now I think
the most useful emotion
is whichever one
is still in the tank,

whichever residual feeling
remains, whichever mood we still feel
lingering in the sweaty air
at the end of our labors

once we've finally had the courage
to drop every implement, turn
around filthy, and survey the truth
about where it is we came from.

Friday, July 5, 2019

THE TITLE COMES LAST

As if we're never quite sure
what we're asking for
until some much more scientific
future version of ourselves
deigns to review
and reanimate the words we interred
a long time ago
in a galaxy far far away—
the title of a thing
almost always comes last.
If at first, this order of events
might seem counterintuitive;
the reality is, composition
can only proceed this way, since
the context of our intention
so often shifts as we
invent it—the only constant being
the implausibility
of discovery: tectonic plates hidden
beneath the feet of mountains
asleep under oceans
of green liquid methane
on the dimly lit fifth moon
of a strange exoplanet
which has not even been looked at
by the eyes of sentient beings yet,
let alone colonized and named.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

AN ABSENCE OF COOPERATION

What's the difference between
the silence
of the tiger

lily and
the tiger sleeping—
between the pale lotus

flower and the still-paler
moon smeared loosely on the
surrounding water?

Even closer
to home, I hear so many
of these absences

which seem to work together—
the quiet of morning
coffee in my cup

and of the downstairs
neighbors who
moved out last month;

the peace of the municipal vehicle
at the end of the cul-de-sac
not backing up

and the similar tranquility
of the steeple bell around the corner
during all the minutes

that mercifully exist
in between those horribly
ironclad hours.

In fact, there must be hundreds
of thousands of different
kinds of silence,

each with its own
loud dark way of knowing
something connected

to something else.
And I can't help but wonder—
which pair is the most like us?

I don't mean the species—I mean you
and me: two points,
two dots

at the top of
two necks, always connected,
always yolked as efficiently as possible

on the geodesic
surface of this planet, but never
really talking.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

WORD PROBLEM

If it takes amount of minutes
every morning to out-wake
a bad dream,

how many days;
how many busywork late
afternoons, silent

cold dinners, mild dry-eyed
television nights—each calibrated
so meticulously

to the shape
of its own goneness—will it
take to finally outlive it?

Monday, July 1, 2019

SUMMER IN THE CITY

     And babe, don't you know it's a pity 
     that the days can't be like the nights 
     in the summer, in the city?
     -The Lovin' Spoonful

I don't know; you can give me
a grotesquely hot
sunny day

any day,
and every
night: the same

lone protuberant tree,
old—and frozen
to the spot, a stubborn paragon

whose huge inarticulate
soul I could
stand in

like the shadow
at 2 p.m. that mercifully
subsumes my own.